Very difficult choices we have to make in life

18th October 2016

The heading for this page is based on some very sad news received yesterday. Not only sad but extremely worrying regarding the choices we are given when faced with breast cancer.  Some make their choices on an emotional state of mind based on where their life is right now which is in line with  my advocation of mindfulness.  However there are certain situations which advocate looking at the bigger picture.  Hope that makes sense and will become clear when I explain the sad news.  (Also today is the anniversary of my lovely sister who passed with breast cancer aged 34 in 1988. I have added a picture of her. She is far right in the yellow top.  Always remembered 👼)

when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, a friend of my sister who is 15 years younger than me was also diagnosed with the same type.  As we all are, she was given a choice as to her treatment.  She was young and in a newish relationship so as you can imagine the thought of mastectomy was devistating and terrifying for her.  She chose the option of radiotherapy first to shrink the tumour and then to have the lump removed - to finish off with chemo.  Well the fooking bastard returned this year and now she has only 3 months to live.  I cannot comprehend how you deal with that news even though I have lived through it with my sisters and parents.  we all have our own reasons for the choices we make in life but please think hard about what could potentially happen in   the future. weigh up the risks verses the benefits.  I had no hesitation what so ever when I was diagnosed.  I didn't even think about it "take them both off" I said.  That was an extremely difficult but easy statement to make.  My breasts were my greatest assets.  Even though i had breastfed two children I had fantastic big firm breasts BUT I had watched my sister take her last breath as a result of this terrible disease and I had to minimise the risks of it happening to me.

My sister Bernadette, was the eldest of the girls. Very fun loving and bubbly.  She was married at 18 with a baby then another one and was separated in her late 20s which is when we started hitting the bars together in Bradford.  She met a guy my age and was engaged to him when she died.  she was diagnosed with breast cancer which was terrifying at the time as we were a normal  family - very close, all young.  I was the only one of the girls working full time so I was a little out of the loop but I do remember it being devastating  for everyone.  She repeatedly visited the gp with the lump in her breast but it was dismissed as a cyst which she had removed.  Eventually the lump was the size of an orange and basically too late to have surgery.  She had chemo and was very ill but the cancer had spread to her lungs, bones, spine and brain.  She moved in at my mums  with the two children so mum and dad could care for her.  It was very difficult for my parents as you can imagine.  We took turns to sit through the night with her.  Thy were special times for sure  And the years have not erased my memories of those special moments.  One evening I was sitting with her through the night.  I came prepared with magazines and chocolates and plonked myself at the end of the bed in a chair.  I must have dozed off and felt Bernadette nudging me to wake up.  "I've saved you a chocolate" she whispered.  She had eaten the lot but saved me one.  We chatted for hours right through the night About love, past Christmases, dying.  She pleaded with me to tell her if she was dying and I had to lie and tell her no. That still haunts me today.  She made me promise to enjoy my life and make the most of it.

One misty morning I got the phone call with the other sisters and brother, that we needed to be at her bedside.  Not a pleasant experience, it was a very sad one. When we all arrived at her bedside she was aware of what was going on and who was there but she couldn't speak or see.  we stayed by her side telling her we loved her and singing to her her favourite song by Whitney Houston "the greatest love of all"    There are some days in your life that you never forget and you can relive with every small detail - well, that day is one of them. Still miss you Bernie ❤️

IT goes without saying that the whole family were devastated - we had never had to deal with anything like this before and it was the first peice of the kearns family jigsaw that had been lost forever.  We would never be complete again.  The Christmas parties, the walking home from midnight mass on Christmas Eve, the Saturday morning gatherings at mums were all now distant memories.  And now - now in the present day it seems like it was another life.

i returned to work after the funeral feeling helpless, like I didn't deserve to be here.  A colleague suggested I raise some money for Bradford war on cancer - somewhere to chanel my emotions - so that is what I did. I arranged a fancy dress football match at Richard Dunn sports centre _ Northern Pharmaceuticals against the pharmacists in various pharmacies. Also quite a few pharmaceutical companies made donations and we raised over £4,000.  I went to the research unit in Bradford university to present it.  The money was spent on a new machine to separate white and red blood cells displaying a brass plaque in honour of Bernardette 💝

After Bernardette passed away,my father demanded an investigation into why her cancer was not diagnosed sooner and why she was treat so appallingly in her initial diagnosis but her notes were first misplaced and then lost never to be found.

Did you know that chemotherapy was developed at Bradford university in the 1950/60s ✅

George Watson and Robert Turner were deeply moved by the young mothers suffering from breast cancer, many of whom would not live to see their children grow up. “I found wards full of women basically awaiting death in the majority of cases,” said Professor Turner in a later interview “In those days there was no treatment beyond surgery and radiotherapy.” They had become dissatisfied with conventional approaches to cancer treatment – they believed that more effective treatment could be accomplished by looking at breast cancer as a systemic disease right from the start and started to look for a further advance that could treat (and possibly prevent) the widespread dissemination of cancer throughout the body. 

Robert Turner himself worked alongside Professor John Wilkinson in Manchester during the early 50s furthering this work and when he came to work in Bradford he decided that this could be put to good use in breast cancer too. Watson and Turner settled on a derivative called Thiotepa and combined it with testosterone – not only in the hopes of combining androgen and antimitotic therapies but also as testosterone was known to stimulate haematopoiesis – its inhibition being was one of the major side effects of thiotepa.

In combination with surgery, they tried their new treatment on 34 women aged between 23 and 74 suffering from various stages of cancer, many of whom had gone beyond the capabilities of conventional treatment. These patients were told the exact truth about their conditions, they had an advanced disease, it was thought this new treatment could help and would they like to try it?

The results were dramatic  – they soon found that giving them both together actually enhanced their individual effects. Thirty of the thirty-four patients showed marked inhibition5. While there were complications, as there would be with any treatment, some patients were cured in just two months - including a case of breast cancer during pregnancy, which was usually extremely serious. Most encouragingly, there was also a high level of response from cancers that had spread to bone and soft tissues.

Staggered by the effectiveness of the treatment, Watson and Turner immediately switched the frontline treatment for breast cancer at the Bradford Royal Infirmary from surgery combined with radiotherapy to surgery combined with chemotherapy and set about publishing their results in the British Medical Journal  

Lest get back to the breast cancer